Family caregivers play an extremely complicated role in the health and care of their loved one. Caregivers are often responsible for navigating complicated medical systems, negotiating with insurance companies, coordinating with public and private agencies, appeasing their employers, etc. They are the central point - tasked with coordinating between several disparate systems - usually on their own time and dime. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Unpaid family caregivers are a surprisingly large group - 29% of the U.S. adult population have provided unpaid care for a loved one as of 2020. Finding those who can understand your situation and offer support or a friendly ear to vent to can make all the difference.
In this article, we are going to explore the toll caregiving has on caregivers who “go it alone” and how to find a community that can help.
The Toll on Solo Caregivers
Family caregivers play a crucial role in helping elderly and ailing adults maintain independence in their homes. But too often, these caregivers report feeling under-prepared, untrained, and completely in over their heads with handling some of the tasks that fall on their shoulders. Throughout their time providing care, family caregivers report their own health declining, intense stress, financial burdens, and more.
Our population increasingly lives longer thanks to improvements in modern medicine, but this means that chronic illnesses also last longer. Besides improvements that prolong life, we have also seen hospitals shift away from in-hospital care and toward home care when possible. The combination of longer lives and in-home care means that the role of caregiver has become longer term and more difficult.
The good news is that solo caregiving doesn’t have to feel lonely or isolating. Let’s explore how family caregivers can find a community.
4 Ideas: How to Find Support in Orange County
A community can help caregivers find information, learn about new treatment options, find grants and resources available to them, connect with others who understand them, and stay up-to-date on everything they need to know.
Here are 4 places to look for support in Orange County:
California Caregiver Resource Center - Orange County
The CRC OC is an excellent resource for caregivers in Orange County (that’s us!). We offer many services for families caring for loved ones that include:
Articles, trainings, webinars, and how-to guides that help you navigate caregiving from home
Connecting you with free local, state, and national resources
Helping caregivers tap into these resources
CareNav - a personalized dashboard that connects you with catered resources managed by a skilled Family Consultant
Connecting you with a support group
A caregiver helping a loved one through a debilitating injury will have different needs than a caregiver providing support to a dementia patient. There are organizations nationwide designed for these unique ailments, and each offer things like specialized trainings, support groups, programs, grants, and more.
Some examples of commonly used ones are:
The VA (Veterans Affairs)
There are thousands of foundations that operate at the local, state, and national levels to help you and your loved one navigate this experience. These community resources are out there and designed for you, so don’t hesitate to use them.
Online Tools and Support
There are also many tools designed to help you find local community resources, assistance, or respite. Some examples include:
Facebook Groups are a great place to find community and support from the comfort of your home. They tend to have a wealth of information via prior asked and answered questions, and also give you access to a group of people who can answer any new questions you may have.
Community Resource Finder is a website designed to connect caregivers with community-based resources.
Caregiver Corner is a federal tool designed to answer common caregiver questions and offer resources.
ARCH is a tool that will help you connect with options for respite care - paid caregivers who can step in and give you a break. This tool asks a few questions to connect you with caregivers who are equipped to handle your loved one’s situation specifically so you have peace of mind that your loved one is in good hands.
Friends and Family
Finally, even if you promised your friends and family that you had it all under control as a solo caregiver, it’s always OK to ask for their help. It’s important to ask for it before you feel that you desperately need it. This will allow you to have someone trained and able to step in immediately when the day comes that you need a break.
Create a task list and share responsibilities. If you have a local friend, family member, neighbor, etc. who will help, create a tag team. Maybe a neighbor can help with a weekly trip to the grocery store, picking your stuff up with theirs. Or perhaps a family member can step in once a week and give you a break.
Accept offered help. Even if your sibling can only help for an hour a week - take them up on it. That one hour is enough for you to take a walk, get coffee with a friend, take a nap, or just be alone for a bit.
Ask for long-distance loved ones to help. A non-local friend or family member may not be the most obvious choice to ask for help, but they can do many things at a distance. They can hop on a weekly call to lift your loved one’s spirits, coordinate online shopping needs, request grocery delivery for you, etc.
Caregiving is not a journey to take in isolation. Remember that you should not handle caregiving alone. Asking for or accepting offered help may feel foreign or awkward, but it is one of the best ways to ensure your physical and emotional wellbeing.
We invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here for further reading and resources. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you on your caregiving journey.